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Ask Slashdot: Are Linux Desktop Users More Pragmatic Now Or Is It Inertia? 503

Posted by Soulskill
from the beards-give-a-+50%-modifier-to-inertia dept.
David W. White writes "Years ago ago those of us who used any *nix desktop ('every morning when you wake up, the house is a little different') were seen as willing to embrace change and spend hours tinkering and configuring until we got new desktop versions to work the way we wanted, while there was an opposite perception of desktop users over in the Mac world ('it just works') and the Windows world ('it's a familiar interface'). However, a recent article in Datamation concludes that 'for better or worse, [Linux desktop users] know what they want — a classic desktop — and the figures consistently show that is what they are choosing in far greater numbers than GNOME, KDE, or any other single graphical interface.' Has the profile of the Linux desktop user changed to a more pragmatic one? Or is it just the psychology of user inertia at work, when one considers the revolt against changes in the KDE, GNOME, UNITY and Windows 8 interfaces in recent times?"
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Ask Slashdot: Are Linux Desktop Users More Pragmatic Now Or Is It Inertia?

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  • by Nutria (679911) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:18PM (#46130695)

    I'd like to have something like the Win 7 Start Menu, but XFCE with the Panel on the bottom is (a) Good Enough, and (b) easy on the brain, since I frequently switch between my Linux box and the company's Windows 7 Enterprise laptop that sits right next to it.

  • by shellster_dude (1261444) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:39PM (#46130835)
    I always end up going back to a customized XFCE, but about every 6 months, I decide to try something else, and usually end up wiping my system and reinstalling before I'm done.

    My wife has a mildly customized XFCE setup, and she loves it. It almost never gets changed or tweaked.
  • by Michael Krummel (3521527) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:39PM (#46130847)
    If they had such a head start, why have they failed so miserably?
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:45PM (#46130875) Journal

    They didn't want a Windows 8 disater so they made the UI as desktop one complete with a non touch friendly start button.

    The Office team sabotaged it too by making sure the fonts were not LCD friendly for freaking 7 years. They didn't like the tablet.

    The infighting at MS was INSANE during Balmers tenure. Now it is starting to change but out of necessity as the fruity company they laughed at and left for dead is more powerful.

    If I wrote that last sentence in 1999 I would be laughed at and modded down as a -1 troll for being an Apple fanboy. Yeah like Apple is ever going to be a billion dollar company HA etc. But Apple made both while MS assumed everything would have to be the same as people who buy their software due so because they are familiar with them. Not because they are better to non technical people like those who make purchasing decisions.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:52PM (#46130903) Homepage Journal
    What do you need a desktop for if all you ever do is launch a browser? Ok, that's a somewhat simplistic version, but I have about 4 applications that I ever launch from icons. Everything else takes place in a terminal. So I don't need some sluggish-ass desktop environment. I just want a reasonably fast, reasonably intuitive window manager that has the ability to do focus-follows-mouse. Every time I've tried Unity, it's failed in at least 2 or possibly all three of those requirements. Gnome 2 with a decent window manager used to work reasonably well, but even back then the configuration process was a little too much like editing a Windows registry for my taste. I don't know anyone who likes the direction they've been going. KDE seems to work reasonably well, but has a long startup time and is still really more than I need. I'm currently back on Enlightenment, which loads in about 2 seconds on my desktop and has everything I need installed by default. I have my 4 icons set up, usually have a bunch of terminal windows open, and am able to work effectively in it.

    All those other guys can keep their all-encompassing UI vision. I don't want their kool-aid. I'm glad I get a choice in Linux. I may have to occasionally beat my head on the computer for days at a time when something stops working, but at least I can avoid having some corporate assholes or desktop environment programmers who like the smell of their own farts ramming their bullshit down my throat.

  • by jbolden (176878) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @06:54PM (#46130919) Homepage

    I think it has a lot to do with when you came up. When I came up with computers in the 1980s and 1990s we had hard problems and solved them. It was a world of rapidly growing IT spending, with IT taking on more and more tasks. After Y2K the technology sector began to get very conservative, the focus was on cost cutting and reliability. Far more like the world of the late 70s and early 80s in Mainframe and Minis that the PCs had replaced. What's exciting now is that mobile devices have brought back that enthusiasm for change and excitement again. They haven't caught up with desktops but at least they are creating a generation of developers who are used to a market that grows and expands rather than stays put at minimal cost.

    I watch the threads on any kinds of change whether it be ubiquitous computing (Windows 8), IPv6 (networking), Wayland, the new hardware designs... and there is a pervasive pessimism among younger IT, a terrible can't do attitude.

    Back in the 1990s when Linux was coming up we had sorta GUIs die: FVWM, AfterStep, SawFish, AMI-wm, Openlook (olwm), blackbox... Systems grow change and die leaving behind better ones. What's terrible is that the new generation wants stagnation. Either Gnome 3 succeeds or it doesn't. But regardless of what happens the work on Gnome advances the ecosystem.

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @10:31AM (#46134111) Homepage

    there are 30 years of detailed field research on this. Again, see Suchman's "Plans and Situated Actions," Dourish's "Where the Action Is," etc., or visit the ACM digital library and look at usability research (i.e. involving observation of real people in real settings) in CSCW, HCI, etc.

    You have one basic fact wrong: they *do* have to think about what it's "time" to do.

    Users in computer-at-desk contexts do not have a detailed roadmap for what to do on a click-by-click basis, either from their boss or inside their heads. They have a general set of goals for, say, the quarter ("Get this project launched"), perhaps the week ("Make sure everyone is on-task and progress is being made; keep the CTO appraised of any roadblocks"), and the day ("Put together charts and graphs for Wednesday's meeting to detail progress").

    But it is *these* tasks that are "theoretical" quantities. They translate into dozens and dozens of clicks, mouse movements, UI interactions, and so on, many of them interdependent (or, in Suchman/Dourish terms, indexical—that is to say, order-important and constitutive of an evolving informational and UI flow context).

    The user may have "Tell bob about tomorrow's meeting" already decided, but they are imagining Bob and imagining Bob *at* the meeting. From there, activity is practical and adaptive. They emphatically do *not* have this in their heads:

    - Take mouse in right hand
    - Flick mouse to lower-left to establish known position
    - Move mouse 5 inches toward right, 0.5 inches toward top of desk to precise location of email icon
    - Click email icon
    - Wait 0.4 seconds for email window to appear
    - Move mouse 7.2 inches toward top of desk, 2 inches toward left to precise location of To: field
    - Click to focus on field
    - Type "Bob"
    - Wait 0.1 seconds for drop-down with completions to appear
    - Hit down arrow three times to select correct Bob
    - Press enter ...

    You laugh, but in fact this is precisely what you're suggesting: that users have a roadmap already. They don't. That's why we invented the GUI—to provide a visual catalogue of available computing resources and an indication of how to access them on an as-needed basis. Then, the user has to decide, in the moment, what was needed. Every single attempt to make things more "simple" or more "efficient" by presenting *only* that one thing that designers imagined to be needed at a given time—the "obvious" next step—has led to users that either feel the system is useless, that fight it to get it to do what they want, or that simply go around the system (I'll just do this task offline, on a pad of paper). You can make very telling changes to users' productive workflows and levels of productivity by changing orderings or locations of icons, etc. Marketers also know this very well on the web (google "page hotspots" to see the research about positioning of advertising and how deeply it affects CPC and other factors in online marketing).

    At a less granular level, something like "Get this project launched" is also not available in a detailed roadmap to a user. Go ahead, ask them to elaborate on the precise set of tasks involved in their big quarterly responsibility. They'll come up with 20, 30, maybe even 80 split into four or five sub-areas. But getting the project launched for an average middle manager over the course of a quarter involves tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of discrete actions, gestures, etc., some computing-based, some not, with the computing-based ones split across dozens of applications and contexts.

    It cannot be mapped out because it is contingently assembled—it has to be done on an as-we-go-basis. So the tasks in the "to do list" (and, in fact, in cognitive behavior) are theorized ("Create a new instance of the platform on test VPN, set up credentials for team") rather than existing as a detailed, moment-by-moment list of actions. This is why user docs people actually have to sit down and use the system, and int

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

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